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Effect of synthetic phonics instruction on literacy skills in an ESL setting

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  • Samveda Training & Research Centre(R)
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... A second study examined the effects of phonics-based English instruction when used with economically disadvantaged Grade 5 children who were attending Kannada-medium school, but who had been learning English as an additional language starting from Grade 3 (Nishanimut et al., 2013). The intervention group received a conventional synthetic phonics intervention for an hour per day while the control group continued to learn English through rote learning of their textbooks. ...
... To achieve a more detailed understanding of the skill profiles of the children who can benefit the most from GL in multilingual context, future studies should also include a detailed assessment of L1 literacy skills. Some researchers have suggested aligning English phonics instruction with the stage of phonetic development in children's L1 (Dixon et al., 2011), and others have shown this alignment to be effective, at least with non-technology-based interventions (Nishanimut et al., 2013). Studies replicating these findings using technology-based interventions such as GL could be highly influential. ...
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Background In 2018, it was found that only a quarter of Grade 3 children in India were reading at grade level. A growing demand for English education has further limited children's literacy achievement. Despite a strong evidence base in favour of using systematic phonics for building English literacy skills, many teachers in India continue to use rote‐methods of literacy instruction. Objectives We aimed to examine the efficacy of GraphoLearn (GL) English Rime, a computer‐assisted reading intervention, in improving the foundational literacy skills of 1st and 2nd grade students who were attending an English medium school in India. Methods A total of 136 students across 6 classrooms were randomly allocated to play either GL or a control math game over a 5‐week intervention period. Students were pre‐ and post‐tested on various English literacy skills using tasks built into the GL software as well as through oral and paper‐based tasks. Results and Conclusions Students who played GL showed significantly greater and faster development on in‐game measures of letter‐sound knowledge, rime unit recognition, and word recognition as compared to students who did not play GL. In addition, GL resulted in greater effects on these measures for students with stronger English literacy skills prior to the start of the intervention. No differences were found between groups on the oral and paper‐based tasks. Implications GL was able to quickly and effectively teach critical sub‐skills for reading. However, a lack of effects on the out‐of‐game measures opens the door for further discussion on the successful implementation of such interventions.
... The lettergraphemes or aksharas do not have separate names; their names reflect the sounds they represent, with an almost one-to-one correspondence between sound and akshara. According to Nishanimut, Johnston, Joshi, Thomas, and Padakannaya (2013), Kannada aksharas can therefore be used as an intermediary stage for learning English letter sounds, and form a compelling reason for transitioning from the home language to English instruction in school. It is important to note, however, that Kannada is taught using an alphabetic approach which involves a process of rote memorizing the individual akshara to sound correspondences, though learning to read the syllables represented by the aksharas and blending sounds might be a better approach (Nishanimut et al., 2013). ...
... According to Nishanimut, Johnston, Joshi, Thomas, and Padakannaya (2013), Kannada aksharas can therefore be used as an intermediary stage for learning English letter sounds, and form a compelling reason for transitioning from the home language to English instruction in school. It is important to note, however, that Kannada is taught using an alphabetic approach which involves a process of rote memorizing the individual akshara to sound correspondences, though learning to read the syllables represented by the aksharas and blending sounds might be a better approach (Nishanimut et al., 2013). Similarly, English in schools is taught using an alphabet-spelling method, which involves rote memorizing the spellings of words (Gupta, 2014), though a systematic phonics approach is shown to be more effective (National Reading Panel, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), 2000). ...
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This study was conducted in Bangalore, India, to measure the influence of language and literacy practices on students' bilingual and bi-literate competen-cies in L1 Kannada and L2 English. Shenoy S (Psychol Stud 61(3):126-136, 2016) modified the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF5) screening tool in English and Kannada to provide teachers with an opportunity to better understand the language profiles of their students. Based on this screening tool, more than 50% of the students from a low-income school were identified as being below criterion on both their L1 and L2, compared to 13% of students from a high-income school. To identify the language and literacy practices that could account for bilingual test scores, informal measures were developed to collect data from parents and teachers. Ninety-three parents completed a questionnaire on language and literacy practices at home, and regression analyses depicted that students' dominant home language explained their bilingual test scores in both low-SES and high-SES schools. Ten teachers were interviewed, and qualitative analyses depicted that teachers from low-income schools code-switched between English and Kannada approximately 50% of the time compared to teachers from high-income schools, who followed a 100% English-immersion model.
... The basic format of akshara (vowels and consonants) is introduced in grade 1; by the end of grade 2 students are expected to have mastered the complex syllable matrix of the orthography. To examine whether the transparency of orthography in Kannada, one of the 22 official languages mainly spoken in South India, can be utilized in teaching English as a second language (ESL), Nishanimut, Johnston, Joshi, Padakannaya, and Thomas (2013) taught three groups of students in grade 5 using different methods of reading in English: two experimental synthetic phonics instructional groups and one comparison group that did not use systematic phonics instruction. One experimental group was taught with the traditional synthetic phonics instruction with no reference to Kannada orthography. ...
... One experimental group was taught with the traditional synthetic phonics instruction with no reference to Kannada orthography. A second group was taught with the Samveda Synthetic Phonics Program (SSPP; Nishanimut et al., 2013), which used a variation of the synthetic phonics instruction making use of the Kannada akshara-sound correspondence to teach English letters and words. For example, the teacher introduced the letter "L," pronounced its sound /l/, and represented the letter in Kannada akshara. ...
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The authors outline the basic structure of akshara, the basic unit of writing in Indic writing systems used widely in South and Southeast Asia; present preliminary studies relating to reading, assessment, and instruction of akshara; and outline recommendations for future studies.
... As mentioned by Reddy and Koda (2013), this could involve explicitly highlighting the sub-lexical components which are used in both languages. In a study conducted with 10-year-old Kannada-speaking children, researchers found that when an English phonics intervention was modified to include the Kannada symbols which represent the English letters, children performed significantly better on English reading as compared to children who received the English-only intervention (Nishanimut et al., 2013). These findings are promising, although future studies are needed in which such interventions are tested with emergent readers. ...
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This study examined within and cross-language relations, and specifically, the role of phonological awareness (PA) skills in reading among young Hindi-speaking children (L1) who were learning to read English (L2) in Delhi, India. Data was collected from 143 children in Grades 1 and 2 using measures validated for this population. The analyses examined the associations between L1 and L2 PA and decoding, both within and across the two languages. The results showed that PA skills within each language significantly predicted decoding in that language. Furthermore, there was evidence of cross-language transfer with Hindi PA significantly predicting English word reading even after controlling for English PA. English PA also significantly predicted Hindi decoding, however, these effects decreased once Hindi PA was added to the model. These findings emphasize the important role that both L1 and L2 PA plays in reading among emergent Hindi–English bilinguals. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings on literacy instruction in India are discussed.
... Teaching systematic phonics effectively to beginning readers requires specialized knowledge and training which many primary grade teachers lack [4]. On the other hand, a synthetic phonics approach performed significantly better on the reading, spelling, and graphophonological tasks [5]. ...
... There is, however, subskill transfer across all languages whereby a subskill developed in a language can facilitate the reading of another, with similarity in orthographic properties speeding up the process of transfer. Across multiple languages, these subskills in L1 were crucial in facilitating L2 comprehension (Nishanimut et al., 2013;Proctor, Carlo, August, & Snow, 2005). ...
Article
Even though the field of linguistics has witnessed a growth of research in the areas of comprehension (listening and reading) subskills, there is currently no universally accepted taxonomy for categorizing them. Using a dataset of 192 publications, a document co-citation analysis was conducted. Eighteen discrete research clusters were identified, comprising 73 empirically investigated comprehension subskills, of which 55 were related to first language (L1) comprehension and 18 were associated with second language (L2) comprehension. Fifteen research clusters (83.33%) were focused on lower-order L1 processing abilities in reading such as orthographic processing and speeded word reading. The remaining three clusters were relatively small, and focused on L2 comprehension subskills. The list of subskills was visualized in the form of a codex that serves as the first integrative framework for empirically investigated comprehension subskills and processing abilities. The need for conducting experimental investigations to improve the understanding of L2 comprehension subskills was highlighted.
... Studies found that knowledge in their first language can be transferred to English learning; the instruction facilitating the transfer is effective on English literacy outcomes (Cummins, 2005). For example, Nishanimut et al. (2013) tested the instructional method of comparing the writing system of Kanada (students' first language) with English alphabetic in synthetic phonics instruction and found large effects favoring this method. ...
Article
Phonological-based instruction, namely phonological awareness instruction (PA) and phonics instruction, has shown to be effective on early literacy skills among young children in western countries. Children who learn English as a foreign language (EFL) learn to read English differently from children in English-dominant societies. Effectiveness of the instruction in the EFL context is much less investigated. The present study systematically reviewed 15 experimental and quasi-experimental studies published in between 2000 and 2016, on the topic of the effectiveness of phonological-based instruction in the EFL context. Study characteristics and instructional features were described, and effect sizes were calculated. Phonological-based instruction was consistently found to be effective among primary school EFL students on reading underlying skills, including phonemic awareness and non-word reading. The median value of the effect size was moderate. In contrast, the effectiveness on word recognition (lexical access and pronunciation) and reading comprehension were inconsistent across studies. The median value of the effect size on word reading was small. This pattern suggests a limitation of the phonological-based instruction, which is the difficulty of transferring the phonological underlying outcomes to real reading. We found that most studies, although meeting the minimum standards of evidence for effectiveness, suffer from methodological flaws; thus, they are potentially biased. Therefore, the positive effects reported in this study should be interpreted with caution. The implication for practice of this study is that including phonological-based instruction in the current English curriculum may be beneficial for young EFL students, thus they can better learn to phonologically decode English words. But not enough evidence has been found to support the instructional effectiveness on real word recognition and reading comprehension. Future research on this topic with rigorous design is needed so that strong causal inference can be made. The findings of this study provide novel insights into foreign language education of English for young learners.
... Instruction can be implemented in several formats ranging from direct, systematic teaching supported by reading material (e.g., worksheets, planned activities) to more indirect approaches where symbol-sound units are taught through the analysis of complete words. Although several types of phonics programs exist, evidence points to the greatest benefits of systematic sequential phonics approaches (Nishanimut et al., 2013;Rupley, 2009). One of the programs that follow a systematic sequential phonics approach is Jolly Phonics. ...
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The current study investigates the effect of a suggested Multisensory phonics program on developing kindergarten pre-service teachers’ EFL reading accuracy and phonemic awareness. A total of 40 fourth year kindergarten pre-service teachers, Faculty of Education, participated in the study that involved one group experimental design. Pre-post tests were administered to assess the participants’ phonics skills. The results showed that the suggested Multisensory Phonics program was effective in developing kindergarten pre-service teachers’ EFL reading accuracy and phonemic awareness.
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Most private schools in India follow the Alphabet-Spelling method to teach reading in English. This approach bypasses letter-sound correspondences and focuses on rote memorization and sight-word recognition. In an effort to provide students with more recent evidence-based practices in reading instruction, this study examined how phonics-based instruction related with early English literacy outcomes for students in kindergarten. Our sample consisted of 627 students attending a private middle-cost school in Mumbai, India where the language of instruction was English. Students were tested for early literacy skills in kindergarten using the DIBELSNext benchmarking measures. We compared groups of students who received no phonics (n = 165) to students who received one year of phonics (n = 234) and students who received two years of phonics (n = 228) respectively. Our results suggested that students who received both one and two years of phonics instruction in preschool significantly outperformed those who did not receive any phonics instruction on all the literacy skills assessed. Moreover, the incidence of students being at-risk for reading difficulties reduced significantly with an increase in years of phonics instruction. Implications for reading research, practice, and policy in the Indian context are discussed.
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Despite considerable efforts made to understand the impact that instructional interventions have upon L2 reading development, we still lack a clear picture of the influence that PA and phonics instruction has upon reading in English as an L2. A search of the research literature published from 1990 to 2019 yielded 45 articles with 46 studies containing 3,841 participants in total. Effect sizes were recorded for the effect of various PA and/or phonics instructional interventions on word and pseudo word reading. Results demonstrated that L2 PA and phonics instruction has a moderate effect on L2 word reading ( g = 0.53) and a large effect on pseudo word reading ( g = 1.51). Moderator analyses revealed effects of a number of moderators including testing method, type of PA/phonics intervention, and context where the intervention occurred. Based upon these conclusions, policymakers and educators can provide beginning learners of English as an L2 with PA and phonics instruction that will enable them to read, understand and enjoy English better. Future research should also strive to adhere to more stringent standards of excellence in educational research.
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Although phonics is the most frequently used approach in treating students with reading difficulties, its effects have not been fully clarified at either a behavioral or neurophysiological level. The present case study administered pure and short-term (i.e., 10 minutes per day for five weeks) phonics-training to a 13-year-old Japanese girl with severe difficulty in learning English. As a result, a drastic improvement in reading accuracy was associated with the enhancement of print-specific N170 in event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by the trained words. The present finding indicates that phonics training can, by itself, remediate English reading and affect its neurophysiological bases.
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Over 30 years of research conducted by Liliana Tolchinsky on writing and spelling development had a major impact on how we view writing as a separate legitimate field of study and just not a reproduction of speech nor the other side of reading. Additionally, her research also influenced how we view writing and spelling development in children, that children have a general sense of writing long before formal instruction begins and their analyses of writing and spelling provide an insight to develop a model for cognitive development. Based on her seminal work, we have examined writing development from phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspectives, spelling performance among monolingual and bilingual children, intervention programs, and literacy development and problems from the perspectives of Simple View of Reading (SVR). This chapter is an attempt to consolidate those findings.
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This study investigated the contribution of decoding and language comprehension sub-skills to Kannada and English biliteracy development over three years in multilingual students in urban low-income communities in one large city in India. Syllabic awareness, phonemic awareness and decoding skills were measured in Grades 3–5 (Time 1), and participants were followed to Grades 6–8 (Time 2), when their oral language comprehension and reading comprehension skills were tested. Hierarchical regression results revealed that: (1) both syllabic and phonemic awareness predicted Kannada decoding scores; however, only phonemic awareness predicted English decoding scores; (2) decoding ability from Time 1 and language comprehension skills from Time 2 made unique contributions to reading comprehension skills at Time 2 in both languages; (3) there were significant cross-linguistic relationships between corresponding reading sub-skills at both times; and (4) there was an independent contribution of Kannada decoding to English decoding at Time 1; however, the contribution of Kannada reading comprehension to English reading comprehension at Time 2 was not direct. The theoretical and pedagogical implications of these findings for alphasyllabic-alphabetic biliteracy development are discussed.
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Can embedded mnemonics ease the task of learning a foreign alphabet? English-speaking preschoolers (N = 36, M = 5;2 years) were taught 10 Hebrew letter-sound relations. Experimental letters were learned with mnemonics that embedded letter shapes in drawings of objects whose shapes resembled the letters and whose English names began with the letters' sounds (e.g., , desk, /d/). Control letters were learned with the same objects but depicted unlike letter shapes. Children learned to segment initial sounds in words. Then they learned each letter set to criterion in a counterbalanced, repeated measures design. Embedded letters were mastered in fewer trials, were less frequently confused with other letters, were remembered better 1 week later, and facilitated performance in word reading and spelling transfer tasks compared to control letters. We suggest that embedded mnemonics better secured letters to their sounds in memory which in turn improved word learning for children in Ehri's (2005)7. Ehri , L. 2005 . “ Development of sight word reading: Phases and findings. ” . In The science of reading: A handbook , Edited by: Snowling , M. and Hulme , C. 135 – 154 . Malden, MA : Blackwell . [CrossRef]View all references partial alphabetic phase.
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Canadian children (n = 81; 9-13 years) who spoke both English and Italian were administered phonological, reading, spelling, syntactic, and working memory tasks in both languages. There was a significant relationship between English and Italian across all phonological tasks. The relationship was less evident for syntactic skills and was generally absent for working memory measures. Analyses of phonological, syntactic, and memory processes based on levels of skill in English reading showed significantly better performance by skilled readers compared to less skilled readers; this was also true for the 11-to 13-year-olds compared to the 9-to 10-year-olds. Similar results were obtained as a function of levels of skill in Italian reading. On all Italian tasks, the bilingual children lagged behind monolingual children matched on age. However, less skilled and skilled bilingual Italian children had significantly higher scores than monolingual English-Canadian children (with comparable reading skills) on English tasks involving reading, spelling, syntactic awareness, and working memory. The results suggest that English-Italian interdependence is most clearly related to phonological processing, but it may influence other linguistic modules. In addition, exposure to a language with more predictable grapheme-phoneme correspondences, such as Italian, may enhance phonological skills in English.
Development of English- and Spanish-reading skills was explored in a sample of 251 Spanish-speaking English-language learners from kindergarten through Grade 2. Word identification and reading comprehension developed at a normal rate based on monolingual norms for Spanish- and English-speaking children, but English oral language lagged significantly behind. Four categories of predictor variables were obtained in Spanish in kindergarten and in English in first grade: print knowledge, expressive language (as measured by vocabulary and sentence repetition tasks), phonological awareness, and rapid automatic naming (RAN). Longitudinal regression analyses indicated a modest amount of cross-language transfer from Spanish to English. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that developing English-language skills (particularly phonological awareness and RAN) mediated the contribution of Spanish-language variables to later reading. Further analyses revealed stronger within- than cross-language associations of expressive language with later reading, suggesting that some variables function cross-linguistically, and others within a particular language. Results suggest that some of the cognitive factors underlying reading disabilities in monolingual children (e.g., phonological awareness and RAN) may be important to an understanding of reading difficulties in bilingual children.
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The present study investigates the contribution of first language (L1) reading ability and second or foreign language (L2) proficiency to L2 reading comprehension, by focusing on the compensation between L1 reading ability and L2 proficiency. Two research questions were addressed: (1) does high L1 reading ability compensate for low L2 language proficiency? (2) does high L2 language proficiency compensate for low L1 reading ability? Participants were 241 Japanese university students learning English as a foreign language. They were divided into three levels (high, middle, low) according to the levels of their L1 reading ability and L2 language proficiency. Effects of these two factors on L2 reading ability were analysed by analysis of variance. A multiple regression analysis to estimate a compensation model was also applied. Results provided positive answers to both research questions. The present study thus demonstrates the mutual compensation between L1 reading ability and L2 proficiency, which works in order to achieve the highest possible level of L2 reading comprehension for readers with different ability backgrounds in L1 reading and L2 proficiency.
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The study investigated L1 orthographic impact on cognitive processing involved in L2 reading. In a cross-linguistic experiment with four orthographically diverse groups (Arabic, English, Japanese, and Spanish), the effects of two types of phonological encoding interference (phonological similarity and unpronounceability) on short-term memory recall performance in English were compared. Data demonstrate that (a) STM recall performance of all four groups was seriously impaired when phonological encoding interference was present, (b) the two types of interference had differential effects on STM performance between phonographic (Arabic, English, and Spanish) and morphographic (Japanese) readers, and (c) phonological coding strategies used in L1 and L2 are consistent. These results seem to indicate, first, that a phonological code is dominantly used in the STM encoding process regardless of the language background: second, that different phonological coding strategies are used among subjects with contrasting orthographic backgrounds; and, third, that strategies used in L1 processing are transferred to L2 processing. Hence, the findings of the study suggest that there is a strong relationship between orthography and cognition.
Article
Orthographies vary in the support they provide for word identification based on grapheme-phoneme correspondences. If skills developed in acquisition of first-language (L1) reading transfer to reading English as a foreign language (EFL), the extent to which EFL readers'' word identification shows reliance on information other than grapheme-phoneme correspondences could be expected to vary with whether their L1 orthography is a non-Roman alphabet such as Korean hangul or a nonalphabetic (morpho-syllabic) system such as Chinese characters. Another influence could be whether EFL readers have learned to read a morpho-syllabic L1 by means of an alphabetic transliteration. English text reading speeds and oral reading quality ratings of three groups of adult Asian EFL readers attending an American university were compared with those of two groups of American L1 readers: Graduate student peers and eighth-grade students. All EFL groups read more slowly than both groups of L1 readers, and their reading was more impaired when orthographic cues were disrupted by mixed case print or pseudohomophone spellings. Some of these effects were reduced in EFL readers from Hong Kong, who had earlier exposure to English. Contrary to previous findings, no effects could be attributed to type of first orthography or early exposure to alphabetic transliteration of Chinese characters, which differentiated the Taiwanese and Hong Kong groups. As a whole, the results suggest that, at least across the L1 groups studied, differences in EFL word reading are associated less with type of L1 orthography than with history of exposure to English.
Article
In Experiment 1, it was found that 5-year-oldnew school entrants taught by a syntheticphonics method had better reading, spelling andphonemic awareness than two groups taughtanalytic phonics. The synthetic phonicschildren were the only ones that could read byanalogy, and they also showed better reading ofirregular words and nonwords. For one analyticphonics group the programme was supplemented byphonological awareness training; this led togains in phonemic awareness but not reading orspelling compared with the other analyticphonics group. The synthetic phonics programmewas taught to the analytic phonics groups aftertheir initial programmes had been completed andpost-tested. The group that had hadphonological awareness training did not performbetter than the other two groups when tested 15months later; this was also the case when thesame comparison was made for the the subset ofchildren that had started school with weakphonological awareness skill. Speed of letterlearning was controlled for in Experiment 2; itwas found that the synthetic phonics groupstill read and spelt better than the analyticphonics group. It was concluded that syntheticphonics was more effective than analyticphonics, and that with the former approach itwas not necessary to carry out supplementarytraining in phonological awareness.
Article
This investigation examined the extent to whichcurricular choice and incorporation of phonemicawareness (PA) into the kindergarten curriculumaffects growth in kindergarten literacy skillsand first-grade reading and spelling outcomesin 114 classrooms in 32 Title 1 schools for4,872 children (85% African American). Literacy curricula were described as havingmore or less teacher choice and more or less PAand were implemented with ongoing professionaldevelopment. Observations of curriculumfidelities and ratings of student behavior werealso obtained. Alphabetic instruction withoutPA was not as effective as alphabeticinstruction with PA. However, effectiveinstruction in PA and alphabetic codingappeared to be as much a consequence of ongoingprofessional development as it was a functionof prescribed PA activities. Results providelarge-scale classroom support for findings onPA reported by the National Reading Panel[(2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-basedassessment of the scientific research literature onreading and its implications for reading instruction.Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health andHuman Development].
Article
The Serbo-Croatian language is written in two alphabets, Roman and Cyrillic. The majority of the total number of alphabet characters are unique to one or the other alphabet. There are, however, a number of shared characters, some of which receive the same reading in the two alphabets, and some of which receive a different reading in the two alphabets. Letter-strings were constructed, all of which could be given a phonological interpretation in Roman, but only some of which could be given a phonological interpretation in Cyrillic; some of these letter-strings had a lexical entry in Roman, some had a lexical entry in Cyrillic, some had a lexical entry - the same or different - in both alphabets, and some had no lexical entry in either alphabet. In three experiments, subjects reading in the Roman alphabet mode decided as rapidly as possible whether a given letter-string was a word. Taken together, the experiments suggest that in the lexical decision task, Serbo-Croatian letter-strings (where their structure permits) receive simultaneously two phonologic interpretations. Whether or not this phonologic bivalence impedes lexical decision in the assigned alphabet mode depends on whether or not the letter-string has a lexical entry in at least one of the alphabets.
Teaching synthetic phonics The Kagunita of Kannada-Learning to read and write an Indian alphasyllabary
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Teaching synthetic phonics. Exeter: Learning Matters
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Johnston, R., & Watson, J. (2007). Teaching synthetic phonics. Exeter: Learning Matters.
The Kagunita of Kannada -Learning to read and write an Indian alphasyllabary
  • P Karanth
Karanth, P. (2006). The Kagunita of Kannada -Learning to read and write an Indian alphasyllabary. In R. M. Joshi, & P. G. Aaron (Eds.), Handbook of orthography and literacy (pp. 389-404). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.